Maybe it’s becoming an NFL Draft custom of sorts, at least before the 49ers acquire a player from Arizona State: a phone rings in the house of Sun Devils coach Herm Edwards, and a California area code is on the other end of the line.
In 2020’s first round, before the 49ers picked receiver Brandon Aiyuk, it was Linda Lynch — the wife of general manager John Lynch — calling Edwards’ wife, Lia. She tipped the first-round selection of Aiyuk to his college coach.
This year, the phone rang later. Lynch himself called Edwards toward the end of the draft and inquired about a handful of ASU players. One of those was center Dohnovan West, whom the 49ers ultimately signed in undrafted free agency as part of their succession plan for veteran Alex Mack.
“He has very good athleticism,” Edwards said of West in a phone interview Tuesday, relaying some of the information he gave Lynch. “He can multitask. Very versatile, smart guy. Light on his feet, not on the ground. That’s what you want. That’s what you look for in an offensive lineman. He fits in that offense. There’s no doubt about that.”
Mack has yet to decide if he’ll return for a 14th NFL season, but the 49ers must make contingencies for the future of the position regardless of the 36-year-old’s decision.
West, who had received a fifth-round grade before the draft from The Athletic’s Dane Brugler, might represent a prominent part of that effort. The 49ers awarded him $100,000 in guaranteed money, a notable amount for an undrafted free agent.
Edwards’ endorsement certainly helped ensure that the 49ers outbid other suitors trying to sign West right after the draft.
Back when Lynch was a safety with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the late 1990s, Edwards (who was a defensive back for the Eagles, Falcons and Rams from 1977 to 1986) was his position coach. The two have been close friends ever since. Herm and Lia Edwards are godparents to one of Lynch’s daughters, while John and Lisa Lynch are godparents to Edwards’ son. This past season, when Arizona State hosted Stanford — where Lynch’s son, Jake, played over the past four years — John and Linda made the trip and sat with Lia in the Sun Devil Stadium stands.
A particularly insightful connection between Edwards and Lynch lies in what lured both men away from stable stints in television about five years ago. Lynch had joined Fox as a color commentator in 2008, and Edwards, after head-coaching stops with the Jets and Chiefs, had joined ESPN as a studio analyst in 2009.